A well of grief: the relatives of murdered Native women speak out

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Native American women and girls are targeted at rates that far outweigh other American women, and are 10 times more likely to be murdered

On a warm summer day in 2018, Lissa Yellow-bird Chase packed her vehicle with sunscreen, iPads, spiritual items and water. She drove to the bank of Lake Sakakawea on the edge of Fort Berthold Reservation, in western North Dakota.

She parked her vehicle, bearing the license plate “SEARCH”, and prepared for a long day ahead. As she’d done several days that summer, she began to scour her territory for clues. With fishing sonar equipment and a dilapidated old boat, she had nothing to go by but her instincts.

Top left: Mary Eder Cleland in Wolf Point at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Mary’s adopted daughter, Dawn Eder, went missing five years ago. Top right: Prairiedawn Thunderchild (right), 16, with her sister Tahnee Thunderchild (center), 14, and their mother. The sisters were almost abducted a year ago by a vehicle of oil workers in Wolf Point.

Bottom left: Stacie Smith is the elected chief judge for the Fort Peck tribes. Fort Peck was one of the five pilot tribes across the whole nation to enact the Violence Against Women Act. Bottom right: Heather Belgrace, 23, with her dog, Vador. Heather’s best friend and cousin were murdered. ‘I hope one day we can get them justice,’ she said.

Native American women and girls are targeted at rates far greater than other American women, and they are 10 times more likely to be murdered

Right: Valenda Morigeau, Jermain Charlo’s aunt, holds a photograph of her niece at an event for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at Missoula fair in Montana. Jermain Charlo went missing on 15 June 2018 in Missoula at age 23.

A fracking location in Williston, North Dakota, part of the Bakken oil shale that has seen a large influx of temporary oil workers. The Bakken area encompasses North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Some activists have linked the environmental impacts of extractive practices … with an increase of rape among women in the region

Top left: Coretta Greybear the Fort Peck tribal police. Top right: The sun sets at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Bottom left: Clarence McNabb’s children play at their home in Browning on Blackfeet Indian Reservation in western Montana. Clarence was working in the oil fields in Williston, North Dakota, and was found dead in 2017. His mother, Ruby Young Running Crane, believes her son was murdered. Bottom right: Coretta Greybear visits on old case she investigated where 13-month-old Kenzley Olson was found dead in a trash can.

Valerie Whitehawk, 61, and her granddaughter, Macylilly, eight, outside of their home on Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

A view of the Missouri River near Fort Peck Indian reservation in north-eastern Montana.

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